South Korea has some of the longest working hours in the world.
According to OECD data, laborers in Korea worked 2,069 hours on average in 2016, way above the OECD average of 1,763 hours.
To tackle this problem, there has been heated debate over the past 5 years on revising the bill on working hours. And finally,.. the National Assembly has made a big step forward.
A parliament committee on Tuesday passed a bill to shorten working hours in South Korea.
The National Assembly's Environment and Labor Committee endorsed the bill, which calls for reducing the country's maximum statutory working hours to 52 hours a week from the current 68.
Under the current law, the maximum working hours in Korea were 68 hours per week, as the law excluded Saturdays and Sundays as part of the 40 hour 'working days', making it possible to work an additional 16 hours during the weekend on top of any extended working hours.
The revised working hours will now include the weekends in the weekly 40 hour working day period, reducing the maximum hours to 52.
The bill will also shorten the working hours for under-18s from 40 hours a week to 35 hours, and cut the number of business types exempt from the working hour limits from the current 26 to five.
The bill will now be passed to the judiciary committee for deliberation, and if passed will be put for a vote at the National Assembly's plenary session, possibly as early as Wednesday.
However, a labor law expert says there have been continued objections from many industries amid worries that the revision could harm productivity.
"The problem is that workers are worrying that the new bill could lower their salary due to reduced working hours, while business owners are worrying that they might have to pay additional personnel expenses for extra hours outside of the bill's 40 working hour limit."
The expert said that it is important to keep in mind the purpose of this bill, which is to protect the health and the quality of life of laborers. He added that both sides should be able to comply with the changes by bearing in mind the original motive.
To minimize the impact of the possible changes, the committee says the new law will be enforced gradually over the next 3 years.
It will be applied to firms with 300 workers or more from this July, while firms with 50 to 299 workers will adapt to the system in 2020, and those with five to 49 workers will follow it from 2021.
Kim Mok-yeon, Arirang News.